NASA Begins Wind Tunnel Testing For Electric X-Plane Props


The propeller designs for NASA’s all-electric X-57 Maxwell have now undergone two weeks of wind tunnel testing, the agency said on Monday. The propeller assemblies, supplied by California-based contractor Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero), logged 14 hours of powered operation during testing with wind speeds up to around 90 knots. The tests took place at the low-speed aeroacoustic wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

As part of the fourth and final modification (Mod IV) of the X-57’s phased development process, twelve electric motors and propellers will be installed along the leading edge of the aircraft’s wing. According to NASA, those motors will only be used for takeoff and landing while the Maxwell’s two larger electric cruise motors—located on the wingtips—will be utilized throughout operations. The propeller blades associated with the smaller motors will fold inward when not in use.

The X-57 Maxwell is a modified Tecnam P2006T. NASA says the aircraft is currently in its Mod II configuration, which uses the two electric cruise motors and the original P2006T wings, and moving toward ground testing. As previously reported by AVweb, testing for the electric X-plane’s new high aspect ratio wing—which will be installed for the Mod III phase—was completed in September 2019.

Video: NASA
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. The props at these speeds were worked out decades ago. If the whole project hinges on a 0.04% improvement in prop efficiency then something is seriously wrong….